I hate it when I sleep late! Because I live a good and clean and virtuous life, I’m usually awake between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m., but once in a while I sleep until 7:30 and I hate it because I wake up having really bad dreams—like this morning. I dreamed that I was moving. All the big furniture had already been taken and so I’d lazed down because I thought I only had a few things left. But when we—there were vague others around—started packing again, I discovered that I had a ton of stuff and no time and no cartons with which to pack. The movers were carrying things out, and my mom was directing traffic—very nicely, very pleasantly—and my dad was already waiting in the car to drive me to my new location.
Problem is, my mom and dad are both dead, and they’d come to take me “home” with them. And I wasn’t ready to go. No way.
Last fall, as we were settling into winter, I figured that I didn’t have better than a fifty-fifty chance of surviving until spring. I said goodbye to the rose garden knowing that it might be a final goodbye, but now it’s spring and I’ve been up to say hello to the rose garden. It’s still there; I’m still here—and I don’t feel a bit like dying now, so why was death in my bones six months ago? I don’t know but I’m beginning to have a suspicion of a theory.
In May I moved to a new apartment. Moving is the third most stressful event in a person’s life (right after death of someone really close, and divorce). The immune system carries the stress load and the way the immune system operates is that it rises to meet the stress but once the stressful event is over, it crashes. This is why you can keep going through a bad time but then come down with a horrendous cold on your vacation. I know a woman who rallies beautifully through the pre-Christmas rush and then on Christmas day she comes down with a dread virus. Likewise, I’ve known lots of pastors who make it through Lent but then develop awful sickness right after Easter breakfast.
So I moved. My immune system, known throughout the Northeast for its hypersensitivity, crashed the week after the move and I developed a severe kidney infection. Considering I already had a rare kidney disease and a not-so-rare case of chronic renal failure, this was not a good thing. This was, in fact, such a bad thing that my doctor said “omigod” three times—and asked me to take an antibiotic.
Now, if you’ve been following along with my postings, you know that I can’t take any “medications,” i.e., drugs. Everything makes me sick—that is, sicker than I already was. I can’t take diuretics for my kidney disease or beta blockers for my heart disease or aspirin for a headache. Fortunately, I don’t get headaches. (That’s because I live the aforementioned good and clean and virtuous life.) So I can’t take drugs but my kidneys are being overwhelmed and, no, I can’t go on dialysis. You have to take drugs to be on dialysis, and I can’t do that—remember? Everybody always forgets, like the physician assistant who proposed that I take drugs for some test. I said I couldn’t. She said, well, there was a surgical alternative, and I just sat there looking at her. Was she proposing surgery without drugs? Yes. She was so deeply into the medical thing that she no longer was even aware when she proposed things that they required drugs.
So my medical team and I decided I would take Macrobid for the kidney infection—it would be the safest drug. I took it, it knocked out the acute infection, leaving me with a low-level chronic infection, and it gave me pulmonary fibrosis. That’s an autoimmune disease wherein scar tissue forms in the lungs. Before Macrobid, I could walk down the hall to the elevator; now, I have to use a wheelchair—can’t walk anywhere, can’t breathe. Thanks a bunch, Modern Medicine.
So here’s the deal: like it or not, I am drug-free till I die.
According to the story, my great-uncle Dick went swimming, then rode home in a wet bathing suit in an open buggy at dusk. He caught a cold that turned into pneumonia, and he died three days later. It was before the discovery of penicillin. Swimming hole to casket: three days.
I am living the life of people a hundred years ago—no drugs—and I wish I knew how they managed. It was before open heart surgery, knee replacements, antidepressants, and routine screening colonoscopies. It was common to only take a bath once a week, on Saturday night; they would have been horrified at the idea that you would routinely let a stranger stick a probe up your butt. Ah, but it’s 2011 and we think nothing of rolling over and giving it up. (I would seriously like to see the statistics on how many colonoscopy results are normal.)
Anyway, in the last fifty years we’ve created an enormous number of medical tests and procedures and drugs—and we’ve emptied out the churches and synagogues. Two years ago, when I moved back into the university section, instead of joining one church I decided to patronize them all and what I found was emptiness. Grace Episcopal: three-quarters empty; University Methodist: two-thirds empty; Temple Concord: half empty. At Syracuse University, the choir is larger than the congregation (they give academic credits for choir). At Upstate Medical Center, nobody goes to chapel. The chaplain preaches to a camera on the un-validated assumption that patients are watching on television.
The churches are nearly empty. The hospitals and doctors’ waiting rooms and clinics are jammed full—and we’ve recently enacted a massive national health care plan to give more people medicine and put more people in hospitals.
Not me. I go with God—and I’m good with that. While you folks are out there spending enormous portions of your time, money and energy on staving off death, I’m looking it in the eye. And I’m going with God.
I haven’t turned to God because I am in fear as a result of being unable to take drugs. I have hooked up with God because in the absence of drugs, I can find God. Or maybe it’s that God can find me. Anyway, what I know from experience and observation of myself and others is that drugs mess up your brain in a way that blocks your awareness of God.
So, I take no drugs and with a clear mind wait on God’s pleasure. How are you doing?